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New Zealand, South Island road trip – Part 1 (Christchurch, Kaikoura and Hamner Springs)

In Blog, Travel tips by SuewanLeave a Comment

Map of our road trip across South Island, New Zealand

The main thing I can say about the South Island of New Zealand is that it blew my mind!

We spent just over 3 weeks here in Nov/Dec and decided to do a road trip and stay in a combination of hostels, campsites and homestays. We hired a car as it seemed to be the most convenient way to see different parts of the South Island.

We spent between 2-3 days in each place and then moved on. This felt like the best way for us to travel given that Dan was still working and so we needed internet and as little chaos as possible. In this blog post (part 1), I’ll write about Christchurch, Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs.


The city is still recovering and rebuilding from the devastating earthquake that happened 6 years ago. Christchurch is a small city and we were able to walk around pretty easily.

Highlights for us were:

  • Seeing the cardboard cathedral. A temporary cathedral in place while the old one is being rebuilt.
  • Learning about the earthquake at Quake City museum.
  • Margaret Mahy playground – really awesome park with equipment for all ages and a water splash zone.


We spent 4 days in Kaikoura and it was one of the most beautiful places we visited on our road trip. Kaikoura is a small town around 2.5 hours away from Christchurch. We loved going to the peninsula for beautiful walks where you can see seals playing and snoozing on the rocks.

Seal lying on the rocks of Kaikoura peninsula

Roobs feeding a lamb a bottle of milk

We also visited a sheep farm on the way to the peninsula where the farmer does a sheep shearing show every day. Roobs was very impressed and was able to feed 3 baby lambs. The farmer is really friendly and we’d recommend it to anyone with kids (or not!).

Tickets cost us $17 for 1 adult and 1 child. You can find more details here:

While in Kaikoura Roobs and I decided to go on a whale watching tour. It was one of our more expensive day trips but we felt that it would likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Despite a pretty sickening boat journey out into the sea (around an hour long), we didn’t throw up and were blown away when the crew found a sperm whale!

It was amazing to see the whale up close and witness it’s big tail splash as it dove back into the depths. We also saw a pod of dolphins who came right up to our boat. We felt this experience was a real highlight of our travels so far. Well worth the money and the crew who took us out did a great job. This is the company we went with:

Whale tail about to splash into the sea

The hostel we stayed at in Kaikoura is worthy of a mention because it was probably our favourite place to stay in on the road trip. Mike, the owner, is a super friendly guy who made us feel very welcome. His hostel is clean, has a big living space and kitchen and we felt it was good value for money. Roobs’s favourite aspect of the hostel was the hostel cat, Tuli! Sky Hi Hostel is a lovely place to stay:

Hanmer Springs

A short 2-hour drive from Kaikoura and you arrive at the little alpine town of Hanmer Springs. The town has a really European feel and is most famous for its thermal pools and spa. We went there and had a great time.

There are lots of different pools and spas outside and most of them are suitable for kids. There is a big swimming area, some really big slides and also a splash park. We had a great time there. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take any photos but here is the link to their website:

We also went on a mountain bike ride – lots of places you can hire bikes in the town. And also played a round of mini golf. Hanmer Springs is a sweet, little town to stop in and is well placed for crossing from east to west.

Part 2 is a work in progress! Check back later to read about our time in Greymouth, Punakaiki, Queenstown, Wanaka, Milford Sound, the Catlins, Dunedin and Lake Tekapo.

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